A Step into the Past

Reviewed by: hkopinions

December 08, 2007

Rating: four

Vietnamese title: Thoi Dai Chien Quoc

***I will be using the Vietnamese name for all the characters in A Step into the Past, since I am not familiar with the Chinese name.***

Louis Koo as Hang Thieu Long
Raymond Lam as Minh Chan
Jessica Hester Hsuan as Dien Phuong
Joyce Tang as Tinh Nhu
Sonjia Kwok as Cam Thanh/ Thanh Thanh
Michelle Saram as Cong Chua Tieu Thien
Kong Wah as Liu Tang/ Lo Kai
Yu Ying Ying as Chu Co

Wow. Look at the cast. Seems familiar? Yep, you are right. TVB is using big names like Louis Koo, Joyce Tang, and Jessica Hester Hsuan to promote 'the new people. Well, who are these new people? Drum roll...Raymond Lam and Sonjia Kwok. "A Step into the Past" is a very anticipated series since it has so many big names, but it just falls short of being a major hit. One reason is that the series was too long and the plot too difficult to follow. Even with the Louis Koo and other TVB top stars, the series fails to capture the audience for the entire series to run. One positive outcome of this series is that it jump-started Raymond's career.

A brief introduction to the story
"A Step into the Past" stars Louis Koo who is a top police officer in Hong Kong named Hang Thieu Long. He has a girlfriend for many years named Thanh Thanh played by Sonjia Kwok. However, Louis loves to be independent and fails to realize that Sonjia wants to get married and that their relationship is falling apart. Sonjia leaves Louis and gets married to someone else leaving Louis stunned. Louis desperately finds a way to tell her that he is in love with her and wants to marry her, but it is too late. Louis encounters a man who wants him to experiment in his latest project, a time machine. The man promises that if Louis completes the mission, he will send Louis back in time to save his relationship with Sonjia. Louis agrees.

His mission is to witness the ascension of Minh Chanh, first emperor of a united China under the Chin dynasty. Louis trains hard and studies the history before his mission. Before he leaves, one of the scientists warns Louis that he can't alter the past and should be careful that history stays as it is or everything will disappear. Louis is given a time traveling device so that he can return home after he witnesses the ascension of Minh Chanh. Something goes wrong with the time machine and Louis is sent back in time three years earlier.

Supposedly, Minh Chanh has not returned to Chin yet and is still a prisoner with his mother, Chu Co. Louis first gets acquainted with an assassin named Tinh Nhu, played by Joyce Tang. Louis also gets into a misunderstanding with a clever girl name Dien Phuong, played by Jessica Hsuan. Jessica falls in love with Louis, but he doesn't return her love. While Louis is in Chiu, Louis meets Michelle Saram, who is a princess, Raymond Lam, who is Trieu Bang, Raymond's mother, and Kwok Wah who plays Liu Tang. The story progresses as Louis climbs into higher ranks and finds himself trying to rescue Chu Co and Minh Chanh and causing broken hearts on the way. Later on, Louis finds that Minh Chanh had died and so he uses Raymond as replacement. Louis escorts Raymond back to Chin and Raymond becomes emperor. The story continues, but I don't want to give all the details away.

Louis Koo
At first, when I saw that Louis was the star of the series, I was rather skeptical. Louis is quite a veteran in TVB series, appearing in many series like "Man's Best Friend", "Return of the Condor Heroes 1995", and "Detective Investigation Files IV". After watching the firs two episodes, I didn't want to watch it anymore because Louis's character was similar to other roles he played before. I continued watching and began to like the series. Louis fits the role well after the beginning because the plot starts to unravel. The only negative opinion that I have about Louis was his character development. At the end, I disliked Hang Thieu Long because he ends up marrying both Sonjia and Jessica. Louis marries Sonjia because she resembles his girlfriend, making Jessica's marriage with Louis more or less because of pity that she got raped.

Raymond Lam
Wow! The transition of Liu Bang to Minh Chanh was astonishing. Raymond portrayed his characters perfectly. In the beginning, Liu Bang is a wimp but had affection for the people around him, especially his mother. When Raymond turns into Minh Chanh, his character changes drastically into an evil and manipulative king. Two thumbs up for Raymond! You will definitely see Raymond in future series like "Eternal Happiness".

Jessica Hester Hsuan
Great job! I loved her character. Jessica portrayed the part of Dien Phuong to perfection. She had great chemistry with Louis. Casting Jessica as Dien Phuong was a great move by TVB since Jessica appeared in series like "Man's Best Friend" and "Detective Investigation Files IV" with Louis. Too bad Jessica's character only appears in the beginning and the end of the series. TVB made a huge mistake by taking Jessica out of the picture so they could introduce newcomer, Sonjia Kwok, who was a horrible actress. Even worst, Louis ends up marrying both Sonjia and Jessica. What a bummer.

Sonjia Kwok
Hmmmm. One word, horrible. There was no chemistry between Sonjia and Louis. Her importance in the series make the series hard to watch when she is with Louis, since Louis is in love with her because she looks exactly like his girlfriend. The series would have been much better if Sonjia's character died off or left.

Joyce Tang
Joyce portrayed an assassin who falls in love with Louis but no one knows that in the series. She did a great job and I can see there was chemistry between Louis and her. Too bad Joyce doesn't end up with Louis but Sonjia does. TVB should give Joyce a chance with a man once in a while. She never seems to end up with a man in any of the series.

Michelle Saram
Well, she wasn't pretty but at least she was less annoying than Sonjia. Good idea of killing off her character in the middle of the story. Michelle was a total miscast.

Kong Wah
Brilliant! I love to hate him. Kong Wah played an excellent villain next to Raymond. Kwok did a better performance in this series than "Crimson Saber". However, Kong's character was hard to watch in the second half of the series. It was just so boring watching Kong manipulate Chu Co and Minh Chanh.

What about the story
The plot is very complex and tedious to explain. The series would have been better if it ended with Raymond's ascension or cut the ending. The later half of the series was boring and the intensity died down. There were too much emphasis on Kong's character and struggles for the throne.

What about the ending
Weird. Louis marries both Sonjia and Jessica. He also becomes the father of Liu Bang who is the first commoner to become emperor of China.

Best supporting actor
Raymond Lam as Minh Chanh

Best supporting actress
Jessica Hester Hsuan as Dien Phuong

Best villain portrayal
Raymond Lam as Minh Chanh

Worst character portrayal
Sonjia Kwok as Cam Thanh

4 stars out of 5. The series would have received a 5 star if not for miscasting Sonjia and Michelle. Furthermore, the series died down towards the middle.

Watch it or forget it
Watch it. Although the series had its setbacks, Louis, Raymond, and Jessica make up for the flaws that the other characters made.

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